Alumni of the former Shawtown School saw new life come to their old school Monday alongside members of the community and other Harnett County residents when the County held an open house at the new Shawtown Community Development Center at 645 Shawtown Road, Lillington.
The open house took place alongside a ribbon cutting and community meeting as County officials unveiled the renovated space, which was formerly the north classroom building on the campus.
The County completed a substantial renovation of the building in June to bring it up to code for new occupants. In addition to renovating the north classroom building, which was built in 1956, the County demolished the original classroom building and gymnasium, which were built in 1949 and had deteriorated to the point where renovation was no longer considered a viable option. Additional plans call for construction of a community park in the space where the demolished buildings once stood.
The building’s new occupants include the new Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina: Robin Paige Club, which opened on August 26 and currently has more than 80 participants; ReEntry Family Services, which was relocated from another location in the County; the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office Police Athletic League (PAL), which previously operated out of the gymnasium on campus; and the Harnett County Work Readiness Training Center, which relocated from a building on the other side of the campus. The facility also includes meeting space for organizations and community events, which may be reserved through the County.
Harnett County Commissioner Barbara McKoy, who attended the former Shawtown School, welcomed citizens to the community meeting and said she was proud to see what had become of her former school. She thanked the community for their support and partnership throughout the project.
Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart said she too was pleased with the result.
“It is so exciting to see the Board of Commissioners’ vision for the former Shawtown School come to life,” she said, “especially knowing how many hours of hard work and collaboration have gone into this project from County staff, contractors and our community partners. Having been part of this project since the beginning, I’m thrilled that this campus is once again alive with activity.”
During the open house, residents were able to tour the facility and meet the partner organizations to learn more about what services they will offer from the Shawtown campus. Representatives from each agency also spoke during the community meeting that followed.
Assistant County Manager Brian Haney provided an overview of the project and went over the history of the site. He said in the past, when new schools have been built, many of the former campuses have been given to the County by the Harnett County Board of Education.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t always been a plan in place for what to do with those buildings and many have deteriorated over the years,” said Haney. “Our commissioners and county manager have made it a priority to not let these former schools continue to sit and deteriorate. They have tasked County staff with renovating what we can, removing what we can’t, and bringing in County services and community partners to revitalize and reenergize these sites and the surrounding communities.”
In addition to the renovation project, an outdoor basketball court was completed on the campus in June. Additional park amenities will include a walking trail with fitness stations, playground, picnic shelter and community garden.
“The Shawtown Community Park will be a great asset to the Shawtown community and the surrounding area,” said Harnett County Parks & Recreation Director Carl Davis, who also spoke at the community meeting. “We’ve been able to work with community members to get input on what they want to see happen, and we’re excited to create this community gathering space.”
The former Shawtown School campus was turned over to the Harnett County Board of Commissioners after Lillington-Shawtown Elementary School opened in 2003. In addition to the organizations located in the Shawtown Community Development Center, the Shawtown High School Alumni Association and Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action and their Head Start program also have a presence on the campus. For more information on the Shawtown Community Development Center or for information about reserving space for a meeting or event, contact the Harnett County Manager’s Office at 910-893-7555.